Re: Expressions of Anger-off topic
From: Bitner/Stevenson (
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999 22:36:16 -0600 (MDT)
I'm pretty tired of this thread as well, but I've been really jazzed to see
so many of my passing-for-middle-class sisters coming out of the closet! I
don't quite fit into any mold, having come from a very "old" WASP family
with a pedigree, but no money in my generation (downwardly mobile!).

Perhaps we should stop making such assumptions about each other.

Here's a little shameless self promotion- my letter to the editor of Utne
Reader got published this month. In it, I talk about making assumptions
about people, too. I'm on a roll, here, people. No prejudice is safe!
Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California

>From: "Sharon Villines" <sharonvillines [at]>
>To: Multiple recipients of list <cohousing-l [at]>
>Subject: Re: Expressions of Anger
>Date: Sat, Aug 28, 1999, 4:01 PM

>>From Sherri's post:
>>  I think the diversity among people who might appear to be "middle class
>> white North Americans and similar cultures" is significant, and rarely
>> explored. Assuming that "99%" of cohousers come from a similar cultural
>> background that shares behavioral norms--particularly around acceptable
>> ways to express anger--seems pretty dicey to me.
> I come from what I call a sub-working class family. Working is tenuous and
> Friday to Friday. You get paid or fired on Friday--sometimes both. If you
> get fired, you also move because you can't pay the rent and still eat the
> next week if you don't find a job on Monday. Bank accounts were completely
> unnecessary--even rent was paid in cash.
> While everyone assumes I'm WASP New England money (or they did before I
> gained weight--a definite down class activity), it is only because those
> were my grandmother's values. She didn't get it from "New" England but from
> several generations of parents who brought the same values from England to
> the South. And all hell broke loose when we violated them.
> To maintain that value system without the proper cultural and financial
> supports or the social respect,  you learn to be very tough. Otherwise you
> don't make it.
> You have to be tough within the family--that is where it is really
> important--to keep all the kids from sliding into alcoholism, drugs, theft,
> etc. In public you are nice and sweet because those are not the people you
> care about, those are the people you have to please to survive. You care
> about family and you fight for them and with them until everyone is safe.
> In cohousing  you have a situation where it is part public and part family.
> Many of the responses sent to the list are "public" solutions that  feel not
> only like pleasing, but like the worst ideas of safe sex. Emotional
> sanitation.
>  What cultural diversity really means in terms of accepting and
> understanding behavior, personal history, and emotional reactions is little
> understood because we haven't lived with it. What a desire for diversity too
> often it means, like all the scholarship programs I was on for 8 years of
> college and graduate school, "we will include you if you behave like us and
> accept our values." And that meant a hierarchical class system.
> One of the most touching and informative moments in a program filmed years
> ago on scholarship students at elite liberal arts colleges in New England
> was a young Mexican American girl from Texas who couldn't eat the food in
> Connecticut. At every meal, she was in agony.
> Her mother had to send her boxes of chilis and  beans and tortillas--"bad
> food" she kept hidden in her closet because no one then was eating anything
> but rare meat and polite vegetables and instant oatmeal.
> To say "Chill" to someone who is expressing their own very deep feelings is
> like saying "put it in the closet."
> Labeling the situation "public" in the context of people being
> themselves--good or bad, means "not family." Hide it. Go home.
> For those of us who have hurdled the class barriers, several times, in many
> directions, phrases like "it just isn't done" or "it doesn't work" or "it
> isn't effective" are extremely relative.
> I'm really tired of this thread, and I'm sure I'll get flamed again for
> responding truthfully again, but I hope it has been helpful to all the nice
> people out there who never yell, never get angry, and certainly would never
> raise their voices in public--or even in private, to understand that this is
> not the only way that perfectly nice and caring people respond.
> The initial question was how to deal with two people who repeatedly argue in
> front of others who are tired of hearing it and are afraid it is setting a
> bad example for their children. My decidedly unique take on this was to say
> look at it another way and you might find a new, workable, answer.
> Obviously, none of the "normal" group process and people skills techniques
> had worked. I'm sure the original question came from someone who was just
> informed as the rest of us about what these are.
> Sharon.
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